There’s been substantial recent discussion, both inside and outside the open source community, about the “sustainability” of the FLOSS infrastructure. Explosive growth in the technology sector has yielded a small trickle-down effect to increase interest, funding, and adoption of FLOSS, while concerns about highly public bugs have jarred those who were not aware of the importance of FLOSS in every computer user’s daily life. Nearly the exact same process occurred during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. Now as it was then, the FLOSS projects that fuel the phenomenon remain the goose laying the golden eggs, which allows (usually proprietary) new technologies built atop them to succeed. The difference today is the keen awareness of technology industry leaders of FLOSS processes, governance, and culture.
Bradley Kuhn walks you through the sustainability debate in open source. The FLOSS communities now experience a complex cultural, financial, and leadership melding of the Silicon Valley startup mentality with the traditional, radical values of software liberation. Since this occurred slowly and organically, we’re often stymied when we seek to delineate ideologies and identify corporate manipulation. At the very moment of its greatest success, open source now exhibits many flaws and cracks. Fortunately, the strategies that historically sustained our communities on tiny budgets centered in charities remain viable and are poised for resurgence. You’ll learn about this complex political challenge our community faces and gain concrete ideas to prepare for changes on the horizon.
Bradley M. Kuhn is the president and distinguished technologist at Software Freedom Conservancy, on the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation, and editor-in-chief of Copyleft.org. He’s been a part of the software freedom movement since 1992. Previously, he worked as a system administrator and software developer for various companies, taught AP computer science, served as executive director of FSF, led FSF’s GPL enforcement, launched its associate member program, invented the Affero GPL, was president of the Software Freedom Conservancy, and has been a primary volunteer and full-time staffer at the Conservancy. He earned his BS in computer science from Loyla University in Maryland and an MS in computer science from the University of Cincinnati. His master’s thesis discussed methods for dynamic interoperability of free software programming languages. An excerpt from his thesis won the Damien Conway Award for Best Technical Paper in 2000. Bradley also received an O’Reilly Open Source Award in 2012 in recognition for his lifelong policy work on copyleft licensing. He has a blog, is on pump.io, and cohosts the audcast Free as in Freedom.
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